How to Settle a Worker's Compensation Claim in North Carolina
Reaching a settlement through mediation.Mediation is often an effective tool to reduce the costs, risks and delay of litigation. A mediation is conference between some, or all, of the parties involved in the case:
. injured employee, employer, workers' comp carrier, attorneys for both parties
A third party, a mediator is selected (by agreement of both parties), comes to the conference to hear both parties' versions of the case, and then tries to help the parties reach a compromise on the matter.
The mediator then goes back and forth between the parties carrying offers and demands, as well as facilitating discussion on the issues in the case, discussing the applicable case law, etc. If the parties are able to reach an agreement,then a Memorandum of Settlement is signed and the case is officially settled. If the parties, do not reach an agreement then, assuming there remain contested issues, the case moves on to a hearing in front of a deputy commissioner of the NC Industrial Commission.
What happens at a workers' compensation hearing?In WC law practice in NC, a hearing is a formal presentation of the case, by all interested parties in front of a deputy commissioner (judge). The Deputy Commissioner presides over a trial of the issues, and renders a decision on the claim. An order is typically issued as follows:
- Parties have 60 additional days to take any medical doctor (expert) depositions, followed by another 30 days to draft contentions and submit a proposed opinion and award.
- Contentions drafted by the parties are written closing arguments on the case, which discuss case facts, case law and present arguments on behalf of their client.
- A proposed opinion and award that each party drafts, discloses what the party feels the deputy commissioner should find as Findings of Fact in the case, legal conclusions and what the award should be in the matter.
- The deputy commissioner reviews both parties' submissions, and then enters an Order of the Court, ruling on the matter.
What is the difference between a mediation and a hearing in WC in NC?The biggest difference between a mediation and hearing lies in who has control over the case. At mediation, the parties (employee/attorney vs employer/insurance company/def attorney) each have input and a degree of control over the result in the case, whereas at a hearing, the judge (Deputy Commissioner) makes the sole determination of the outcome.